Survey: Sarah Benzing

Position: Chief of staff, Rep. Bruce Braley (D-Iowa)

Age: 31

Hometown: Neola, Iowa

Marital status/children: In a relationship

Last job: National field director for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, 2008

First job: Prep cook at an interstate restaurant

Most unusual job: Truck stop waitress, Minden, Iowa, exit 29 off I-80

Religion: “I have it.”

College: University of Northern Iowa (“Go Panthers!”)

Managerial style: “I liken my management style to that of Col. John ‘Hannibal’ Smith of the A-Team — ‘I love it when a plan comes together.’ ”

Dream job (not including present one): College professor

Passion outside of work: “When I’m not busy causing mischief and mayhem baking, I’m reading, hosting gatherings, writing and tending to my patio garden.”

Most embarrassing moment: “While managing Rep. Braley’s race in 2006, the communications director called me pretending to be Rahm [Emanuel], and I bought it hook, line and sinker.”

Most inspirational figure: George Washington

Claim to fame: “I was the president of my local 4-H Club, Neola Clever Clovers.”


Growing up, Sarah Benzing worked at a truck-stop restaurant along one of the most-traveled interstate highways in the country. While there, she learned how to juggle the temperaments of her co-workers and her customers — a skill that helped her tremendously as chief of staff for Rep. Bruce Braley (D-Iowa).

“If you’re good at waiting tables, you can definitely get along in this business. That’s for sure,” Benzing said. “There’s tons of different kinds of personalities that come into the restaurant, and you have to get your politics right in the kitchen with the cooks and your fellow waitresses — and even the gas attendant.”

Benzing said she loves her job, but if she had to choose another career path it would be teaching government classes at a high school or college. Her job as Braley’s right-hand woman suits her, she said, because she would make a horrible political candidate.

“Oh man, I would be the worst candidate in America. I think I’d be too busy wanting to be a campaign manager instead of the candidate,” said Benzing, who managed Braley’s congressional campaign in 2006 and was field director for Gov. Tim Kaine’s (D) successful bid in Virginia.

Benzing said her political savvy developed when she was 16 years old and attended a 4-H Citizenship Focus Camp in Washington, where she and her peers simulated the lawmaking process, complete with lobbyists and debates.

“At the time I never thought I was going to come back to Washington,” she said. “People usually think of farm animals and baking pies when they think of 4-H. But 4-H helped mold my interest in politics through just providing lots of different activities.”